Friday, August 8, 2014

Faith - God's gift

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." - Eph. 2:8-9

I've been thinking a lot lately about how and why it is that we humans tend to think that having a relationship with God has anything to do with what we do

It doesn't, you know. 

But somehow we fall into that trap door that Cain fell into. You remember Cain. Abel's brother, Adam's boy. Yeah, him. He got the notion that being acceptable to God was the way to have a relationship with Him. He figured if he could prove he was worthy enough, he'd be a shoe-in. On the other hand, Abel his brother knew that there was nothing he could do to secure God's favour. And so he did what his mom and dad told him was the only way (how else would he have known if not for the story of God clothing them with animal skins?) ... he sacrificed the best and purest of his flock. 

But Cain didn't get it. He didn't - or better put, he wouldn't understand that it wasn't about impressing God. In his mind, it couldn't be about resting in the one provision God made! He had to DO something! And when God told him that it wasn't acceptable - instead of doing what was acceptable (he already knew; he just could not accept it!) - Cain got angry. VERY angry.

We know the rest of that story.

Down through history we've done it over and over: we (individually and collectively) have tried to twist God's arm into paying attention to us. 

It never ends well. 

The apostle Paul was very meticulous about the simplicity of the gospel (some would say that in trying to show how simple it was, he made it sound so complicated!) His main concern was to show people that all they needed to do was believe in the authority of Jesus, the authority that His death bought and paid for, as our only way to a relationship with God. That's it, that's all. 

God is the One who thought up the notion of salvation. He's the writer and the completer of our faith. He didn't do it as a "Plan B" when Adam sinned; no, Jesus was our sacrifice and we were chosen to be in Him from before the foundation of the world. 

As the beginning Bible text shows, even the faith that we place in Him doesn't come from us. It comes from Him!! He gives to every person, the Bible says, the measure of faith. The same measure. Whether that person is an atheist or a Buddhist or whatever other kind of ist, every person is given that gift. But that gift (faith) alone does not automatically result in salvation. Like a seed, it depends on where it is planted. 

The process of bringing someone to salvation is accomplished by God. Jesus said in John 6:44, "No man can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him."

Pictures sometimes help us grasp how this works. One picture is of a lifebuoy, a red and white ring thrown to people who are in distress in the water. They can choose to grab it. Or not. Of course that analogy breaks down when you think about those who are too weak to hold on!! 

Photo "Ring With Stone" courtesy of
Boykung at
Of all the examples I could pick perhaps it's best to think about the example of a proposal of marriage.

The suitor has been wooing the intended for a while. And then the question is popped.

There are only two answers. 


Yes takes the faith that has already been given, the knowledge of who the Lover is, of His character, His love, and trusts that love, rests in it, accepts the offer freely made. It's as simple as that. No strings, no buts, no ands, and no ifs. 

No means that the offer is rejected. 

It doesn't have to be more complicated than that.

I really don't need to get into all the theology in that description of the marriage proposal. The gospel can be understood by very small children. I've seen that understanding take place and watched a child as young as three years old ask Jesus to be her "special Friend." Believe me when I say that this child's whole attitude changed in that moment, and God has had His hand on her life ever since. 

Adding to that simplicity takes away from the beauty of it. 

Barry MacGuire's old song, "Cosmic Cowboy" (1978) gives another example:

I met a cosmic cowboy ridin' A Starry range
He's a supernatural cowboy and he's dressed-up kinda' strange
And at first, I didn't see him  being out there on the run
Yeah, but that ol' hat that he's wearing is shining brighter than the sun
And, when my eyes adjusted to the flashing of his smile
Hey, I saw his invitation: Say, come-on Barry, we'll go riding for awhile...

Cowboy of the night, Shooting rainbows through the night

We rode along together For more 'n half-a-day
Riding through the changing weather   Sky was all turned gray
Chilly winds were blowin'   Oh, the cold was cuttin' deep
Yeah, then it started snowin'  Trail was getting' steep
I was just about to turn-around  Head back the way we came
Somehow, without a sound   I heard him ... call my name

Cowboy of the Light   Shooting rainbows through the night

And looking up, I saw that we was high upon this ridge
And he took me by my arm  and led me right over to the edge
Hey, I was so scared I couldn't find a single word to say
You know, there's  ten-thousand feet of empty air
And it's just about an inch away!

But - a, billion miles was out beyond the waving of his hand
I was looking through his eyes right into another land

Cowboy of the Light shooting rainbows through the night

He said, this is my Father's ranch as far as you can see
He made it out of nothin' every branch and every tree
The stars, all the mountains, rivers and streams
The oceans, the fountains, and, the valley of your dreams
I know that place you're lookin' for
That place you long to be
Truth is, I'm the only door
You're going to have to pass ... through me

Cowboy of the Light shooting rainbows through the night

Bending back, I tipped my hat to look him in the eye
But he just smiled, and gave me confidence
And said, "Go-ahead and try!"
It was now-or-never and I, I knew I had to start
So, I took that step, and  I went fallin'
Straight in through his heart!

The first thing that I noticed coming out the other side
Hey, all my fears had vanished ...
He taught me ... how to fly!

Cowboy of the Light shooting rainbows through the night

Ahhh yeah, there's a cosmic cowboy and, he rides a starry range
He's a supernatural cowboy, He is dressed-up kind'a strange

And to think I, I nearly missed him being out there on the run
But, that old hat that he's wearing, it's shining brighter than the sun
Yeah, and when my eyes adjusted to the flashing of his smile
I saw his invitation, He said, come-on Barry
We'll go riding for awhile!

Cowboy of the Light, Whooo! Shooting rainbows through the night

Ha-ha-ha-ha, Ahhh!

Cowboy of the Light shooting rainbows through the night...

It's God's idea, God's initiative, God's calling, God's wooing, God's invitation. Once we say yes, it's God's Spirit in us, God's power in and through us, God's faithfulness in spite of us, and .... 

One more thing.  He always finishes what He starts. 

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